Friday, December 4, 2009

Paybacks can be hell

University of Houston law professor David Dow is now wearing the shoe off the other foot. Mr. Dow and the Texas Defender Service (TDS) were in the middle of the controversy swirling around Judge Killer, er... Keller, and her closing of the Court of Criminal Appeals clerk's office on the night of Michael Richard's execution.

Under the Court's Miscellaneous Rule No. 08-101, adopted in June 2008, any motions filed relating to a death sentence are considered late if filed less than 48 hours before 6pm on the date of the execution. If a pleading is filed within 48 hours, a sworn statement of why the pleading is being filed late must be attached.

TDS filed the writ on the afternoon of November 17, 2009. In Mr. Dow's sworn statement he said he did not receive the file in question until November 6, 2009 (twelve days before the scheduled execution) and that the grounds for the writ of habeas corpus changed on November 15, 2009 due to a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. He also noted the time constraints of dealing with multiple cases near the deadline.

Mr. Dow's writ was denied and his client was executed on November 18, 2009.

Judge Keller did not participate in the decision to deny Mr. Dow's writ and she did not participate in the show cause hearing.

I understand the need for courts to have adequate time to review pleadings before a deadline, but I have to question the need for Miscellaneous Rule No. 08-101. We're talking about a human life. With all of the controversy regarding the execution of Cameron Willingham, I should think the State of Texas would be cautious before ordering the murder of anyone else.

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